The End of a Species

When the giant tortoise Lonesome George died on June 24, we asked Biology Professor Robert Dawley to explain the significance of his death. “Lonesome George was the last surviving member of the subspecies of giant tortoise that lived on Pinta Island in the Galápagos Archipelago. With his death, the chance for a partial restoration of the original tortoise population on Pinta has vanished forever. But George, as the leading symbol of biodiversity protection efforts in the Galápagos, had his victories, with successful efforts to restore the biota of several of the islands of the archipelago. On Española Island, for example, the original tortoise population has been returned, and these tortoises, the closest know relatives of George, will eventually be established on Pinta as the closest approximation of the lineage that went extinct last Sunday.”

This spring, 16 students experienced a hands-on opportunity to study wildlife in the Galápagos with biology professors Robert Dawley and Ellen Dawley. Among the sites they visited were the Charles Darwin Research Center, on the outskirts of Puerto Ayora. In order to take the trip, students had to complete a four-credit course in Evolutionary Biology.

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